Jamaat-e-Islami Hind (JIH) has asked the Union Government to uphold the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act 1991 to protect Gyanvapi and other mosques.

Addressing the monthly press briefing at its headquarters in the national capital on June 4, JIH Vice-President Prof. Mohammed Salim Engineer voiced concern over the recent developments related to the targeting of Muslim places of worship in the country. He said the courts should not have entertained petitions pertaining to demands for survey of Gyanvapi and other mosques when the Places of Worship (Special Provisions) Act, 1991 prohibits altering the character of religious places. He asked the Central government to uphold the 1991 law in the interest of justice and peace.

About increasing attacks on mosques and Muslim community in the last few months, the JIH leader said that on the occasion of Ram Navami, various processions were deliberately carried out in communally sensitive areas and attempts were made to hoist saffron flags on the minarets of mosques. “All this was done with the police and local administration looking the other way,” he added.

The JIH vice-president said, “In Maharashtra, a political party openly challenged the administration, declaring that they would run a campaign, and asked their workers to continue to play the ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ in front of mosques till they removed their loudspeakers. Many prominent mosques in major cities of India are being targeted with threats that they will be converted into Hindu temples. A section of the media is also vitiating the peaceful atmosphere by supporting such campaigns.”

JIH secretary for Community Affairs and Public Relations Mohammad Ahmed appealed to the Union Home Ministry to urgently come out with a statement and uphold the Places of Worship Act 1991, which states that a mosque, temple, church, or any place of public worship in existence on August 15, 1947, will retain the same religious character that it had on that day – irrespective of its history – and cannot be changed by the courts or the government.

Strongly condemning the targeted killing of minorities and outsiders in Jammu and Kashmir, the JIH vice-president demanded a thorough investigation to bring the real culprits and conspirators to book. He has appealed to the people not to look it from the communal prism as Muslims too were killed during the same period; even Kashmiri Muslims have been the main victims of violence. Stating that J&K government must ensure safety and security of all communities, Prof. Salim also demanded legal action against those trying to communalise the situation in J&K. He said, “It is the responsibility of the Centre to maintain law and order in the Union Territory. Durable peace in Kashmir is in the interest of everyone and concrete efforts are needed in this direction.”

JIH in its press note states that the government needs to be watchful and exercise all efforts to prevent it from becoming a communal issue. “Media reports suggest that the Kashmiri Pandits who had returned to the valley after assurances of jobs and security from the government are quite wary and pessimistic and want to leave Kashmir for Jammu. The government must restore the confidence of the people, including minorities, and ensure their safety and security,” it added.

Vehemently condemning the mob lynching of an elderly person Bhanwarlal Jain in the Manasa town of Madhya Pradesh on suspicion of being a Muslim, Prof. Salim said, “The poor man belonged to another community and it is alleged that his killers repeatedly tried to make him confess that his name was Muhammad while lynching him.”  JIH, he said, supported the initiative of “the National Campaign Against Mob Lynching” which has proposed a draft law ‘Manav Suraksha Kanoon (MASUKA)’.

“The proposed law offers a legal definition of ‘mob’ and ‘lynching’. It demands that lynching should be made a non-bailable offence. The concerned SHO (police officer) should be immediately suspended and a time-bound judicial probe must be carried out. Those convicted of mob lynching must serve the punishment of life imprisonment. Compensation and rehabilitation should be offered to the families of the victim,” the JIH vice-president said.

Prof. Salim pointed out that his organisation disagreed with the recent Supreme Court order that sex work and prostitution must be acknowledged as a profession. He said, “While there can be no disagreement over the apex court’s observation that ‘every individual has a right to a dignified life under Article 21 of the Constitution’, the directions issued to the police to respect the rights of consenting adult sex workers are fraught with danger and may result in further damaging the situation of thousands of innocent girls and women who are forced into this profession. Some say that prostitution per se is not illegal in our country and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act 1956 merely lists out activities under prostitution such as pimping and renting out property for running brothels as punishable by law. The existing law also specifies that to lawfully conduct sex work, it must be carried out in an isolated area with no public institutions in sight known as ‘red-light’ areas.”

Expressing deep concern over the spiralling inflation in the country, Prof. Salim said that the prices of vegetables, edible oil, cereals, petrol, and diesel was making it extremely difficult for the middle class and the poor to run their households. From February to April 2022, food prices have risen 7.3% on average. Quoting figures from the Centre for Monitoring of Indian Economy (CMIE), he said the unemployment rate in India rose to 7.83%.

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